“Speak up,” insisted Jeannie Hamilton, the First Lady of NYU, just hours before her flight back to the United States. Her meeting with student leaders became a much “more critical dialogue than anyone intended.”
While her husband, President Andrew Hamilton, had a separate meeting with Chancellor Yu, Jeannie Hamilton had other plans. Hamilton made it a point to have a tea with student leaders because she was particularly interested in how students fare at NYU Shanghai. Invitations were extended to RAs, OAs, and members of Student Government and the NYUSH Youth League.
Hamilton first explained why she wanted to have this tea. She wanted to meet students not only out of interest, but to help “report to the president if necessary” if there were any outstanding problems.
After drawing a map of the seating arrangement in the Career Development Center’s conference space, she took the time to write down every student leader’s name to “give [them] the same respect she is given.”
She acted as a facilitator of discussion by first allowing the 12 student leaders to introduce themselves, and how they got to NYU Shanghai. The affair was informal and unintimidating.
Some of the issues discussed included academic advising, the cafeteria vendor changes, and the funding of various student initiatives.
After every single person spoke, Hamilton followed up with questions that intrigued her. As a student, this interaction was meaningful.
Involved sophomore Lauren Benedict first exclaimed, “I want her to be my mom!” after the tea.
Lauren explained why: “As international students, we face so many obstacles integrating into a Chinese world and while doing it, it’s hard to find our voice… anywhere. Jeannie provided such real solutions to some of our overlooked problems. She was so present.”
This meeting calls to question what might occur if there were more discussions like this, and Hamilton wasn’t afraid to tell us why it worked so well. “If you have a little more [discussion],” she says, “we can achieve so much.”
She stated over and over again during the meeting, “After identifying these problems, you have to be able to identify your possible solutions first,” and “try to come up with these solutions together.”
She hopes to meet with the 12 student leaders again when she returns to see how things might have changed.
This article was written by Tyson Lee Upshaw. Please send an email to email@example.com to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Lauren Benedict